Saturday, December 15, 2007

The pillar a family stands on

Almost all of my unmarried friends say they want to start a family someday. I notice that when we discuss our future families, what immediately comes up is children. 'Of course I want to have a family! We all want to have children someday, don't we?'… 'Oh, I want the best for my children!' – so, is there something wrong with planning to have children? Of course not! Children are a wonderful, beautiful gift from God. It's all fine and well, as long as we remember one important thing: the pillar a family stands on isn't children. It's marriage.

Women were created to be helpmeets first, mothers later. Some families have no children at all, but strong, thriving marriages keep them together. On the other hand, children can't sustain a malfunctioning family or a marriage that is falling apart. I understand that as an unmarried woman with no children yet, I need to carefully weigh my opinion, but I don't think it's good for children to feel that family life revolves completely around them, either.

Another thing is that sacrificing for our children is still somehow tolerated, even by feminists. Or at least it's harder to contradict. A woman who puts her children ahead of herself is influencing the entire future generation! So putting your career on hold because you have small children is seen as an annoying, but justifiable sacrifice. But a woman who does the same for her husband causes puzzlement. Why on earth is she doing this, poor stupid little thing?

I feel this especially strongly when I talk about my wish to focus on my home and husband when I become a wife. Yes, a wife and not a mother. 'But won't you have plenty of time for yourself before you have children?' I'm asked. I love children and hope very much to become a mother, but my duty will be first and foremost to my husband. This will remain true even if I'm never blessed with the gift of motherhood.

In a godly, strong marriage, both husband and wife love God and each other. They have a strong desire to serve God and each other in their God-given roles: husbands as leaders, providers and protectors of their families, women as helpmeets and keepers of the home. This is an incredibly beautiful, harmonious design. A bit later, most families are blessed with the joy of children. This, too, is a wonderful, beautiful gift! Each child is a treasure God entrusts us with, a treasure we are to keep, guard and cherish. But marriage comes first. I believe it should always come first.


Linsey said...


You're right, marriage is much more important overall for a family. My huasband and I married when we were 17 and 18, and we'll celebrate 9 years. Our three kids see our love for each other on a daily basis, and it can only do them good. I serve their dad first. I iron his clothes, make all his meals, make his as comfortable as I can. No one eats until daddy is sitting, ready to eat. Whatever dad says goes. Period. That is one of the most powerful ways I can think to show my husband that he is important to me, by teaching my children that we are their rulers, and that their dad deserves their respect.

And he repays me a millions ways. This morning, for instance, he cleaned a mess that the dog had left on the floor, and made me sit still with coffee and the paper while he made us all the most delicious waffles. He loves me, and I love him, and together we are able to love our kids. That's the way it should be.

Thank you for showing young women that it is good indeed, and not weak, to put your husband before yourself.

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of something my mother once said to me, when I was considering whether or not to go with my husband on a trip for a few days. I wavered, & she said, "Just remember not to be so much a mother that you are not enough of a wife." That was good advice!


Anonymous said...

I have been a wife for nearly 6 years and a mother for 4 years, and can vouch that you are right on track! I've seen many, well-intentioned women who are so wrapped up in their children that their husbands must play second fiddle; these women also seem to suffer much worse when their children grow up and leave the home because they have not truly learned to focus on pleasing their husbands. This is a good reminder for all of us young mothers... a functional home revolves around a strong marriage, and children will certainly benefit from a mother and father who are mature enough to have learned this.


Kelly said...

Well said Anna, your kids grow up and have their own families. You've got to sustain your marriage. While children can and do put a stress on a marriage a couple can pull through it.
It's so cute lately my daughter giggles and smiles when she sees my hubby and I kiss. It's just adorable. You can tell she loves to see her parents together even if it's already embarrassing for her.

the7gerbers said...

Good, thought provoking post. Here are some more thoughts, from someone married 18 years, with 5 children.

I really appreciate the sentiment behind this post. However, I also really get uncomfortable with the idea that we have to establish a "hierarchy" of devotion in Christian family life.

I've heard all kinds of variations on this during our marriage. The truth is that there are seasons of marriage where the children's needs (or aging parents, or _______) have to be cared for, and it can feel like husband is playing "second fiddle" (to quote one commenter).

But that assumes that the *mom* is in the head of the need-meeting business of the home. It may even suggest an immature view of our husbands, that they cannot deal with these seasons without constant reassurance that they "come first." Just thoughts here, ladies.
Sometimes, these kind of statements are put forth by ministries pushing their expensive, weekend-away experiences. The subtext of their advertisements is, "If only you could get away from the kids for awhile, you could really do wonders for your marriage." Sort of a pop-Christianity escapism of the current evangelical vogue.

I have wondered often if these kinds of statements occurred in the Christian lives of families 100, 200 or 500 years ago. I have a feeling they would have been preposterous and unnecessary.

The reality is that when both spouses are behaving in an adult, mature, Christian manner, they will be willing to sacrifice for the children, for each other, for the good of other souls, too. No need to establish a "who-comes-first" type system.

Just some (alas, perhaps not-too-coherent) thoughts from a reader who really enjoys this blog and agrees with almost everything she reads here. :-)

Andrea said...

Anna, another wonderful post! Certainly a topic that I think is under-discussed (although I do find myself loving that for the large part society recognises the treasure that children are; you know we'll be beyond hope when we collectively cease to view children as a blessing!)

I don't know what it is about me, though, that tends to zero in on the one exception-- again, this is something where I know your heart, since you have already expressed your opinion on this, but it's still a place where I've seen many mothers fall short, so I just wanted to bring it up . . .

Wives who should never, EVER put their husbands first are those who are married to abusers, particularly when the children are in danger. There is a time and a place to plant a solid foot to your husband's backside and get him out of your house, and that is when he raises a hand to you and/or your children. I would never, ever bend on that point; now, obviously in a marriage where the couple is truly following God, that wouldn't happen, since there is nothing Godly about that sort of behaviour, but far too many supposedly "Christian" men are guilty of this. In one of my university courses I wrote a paper tracing court cases dealing with domestic abuse throughout the 19th century, and you'd be just sickened to realise how many men who professed to be believers were called to court to defend their battering of their wives, children or both (they often twisted Scripture passages to do so-- just one more reason that I am so passionate about pursuing the contextual, historical and literal translations of many Biblical passages!). If, God forbid, I were to find myself with a husband like that, my choice to leave him WOULD hinge on my children first, myself second, and my husband last.

Again, I do know where you stand on the subject of abuse, but so many women fall into the trap of believing that their husbands have some sort of right to abuse them, and as a result put their children in danger out of this misguided belief; it's just tragic, really. My mother volunteered for several years at a women's shelter, and some of the stories she heard would turn your stomach and break your heart.

Tracy said...

Amen. Although I love my children dearly, my husband comes first. Sure there are time when the children's needs MUST be met, but overall, the husband/wife relationship is the primary one in our home.

I KNOW(because my children have told us) that our relationship is pleasing to them. In a day when most couple are divirced, and parents are on tehir second and third marriages, my children are happy to see mom and dad spending quality time together.

Shannon said...

This is such a good post. It is very difficult at times-with little one's running around-to focus on marriage. It gets taken for granted so often. Children's needs seem to take priority until husband and wife become co-parents and no longer loving partners. I have seen this so many times with my friends, family and even with myself. Thank you for such a great post.

Karen said...

I JUST got done telling a friend that she needs to put her children first and get out of a bad relationship. I certainly can tell you from experience how much it hurts when your mom chooses a man over you. But yes, in normal marriages with normal mothers who do take care of thier children's needs, the husband's place should be king. LOL.

Hailey's Beats and Bits said...

i have been married for ten and a half years. i cannot truly claim that i perfectly prioritize my husband. but it helps to be reminded that: if a wife loves her children she should love her husband first who is the father of the children. BLessings!

Buffy said...

I agree. I would go so far as to say don't get married in order to have children.

Maybe this seems a radical statement? What I mean by it is that if having children is the most important thing to you what's going to happen if you find you or your husband can't have children? If you married him mainly to have children you could become very bitter and unhappy. However, if you married him because you want to spend the rest of your life with him regardless of whether or not children come along you will never lose the joy of sharing your life with him. If you are then blessed with children your cup will run over.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post and responses, Anna. I agree with every point!

I could tell countless tales of women tearing down their marriages because they put their children first, thus neglecting their husbands. It's a fine line to walk, but a necessary balance of time and energy.

I heard it once said that "the greatest gift a man can give his children is to love his wife". In this case... "the greatest gift a woman can give her children is to love her husband."

Wonderful post. :o)

godsgirl68 said...

I've been married fifteen years to the most wonderful man. We have 2 daughters and the oldest always complains when Dad and I kiss in front of her. I just smile because I know someday she will appreciate the love we openly express to one another. Great blog and you have tremendous insight considering where you have come from. It is the wisdom of God, certainly.

HIl said...

Hi There, Anna!
I stumbled across your blog while looking at a homeschooling thread. I'm definitely not your average reader! I'm a devout wiccan, liberal feminist, but I enjoy reading your ideas. You are very well spoken and write beautifully. I strongly agree that in the feminist movement, many of women's traditional roles lost the honor and importance they once held. We won the freedom to work in "the man's world", but in doing so many families won microwaved dinners and latchkey children.
I married at 20 to a very abusive man. I had two children by 22. I left him at 23, with all the strength and courage I could muster. Now, I work from home so that I can be as available to my children as possible. We forgo many creature comforts, but being available to my family is worth more than the money to me.
Anyway, I give you a friendly wave from the other side of the fence...Hil

Adlyn said...

you know my mom (I think) told me something like this before, great post Anna you word it so well!


Terry said...

No need to weigh your opinion any more- you are absolutely right. Marriage is indeed the pillar a family is built upon.

Brenda said...

You know, I don't think it always has to be "should I choose my husband's needs or my children's needs?" My husband is an adult and loves our children as much as I do. If I am helping him do something, let's say...getting the Christmas decorations out of the attic...and one of our girls started crying (a hurt cry--not a "she took my toy" cry), he would say, "Go!" He knows they are little and their needs must be met. HOWEVER, I always invite my daughters to be a part of helping Daddy. They know mommy is daddy's helper and they enjoy helping him too. Each day we clean up the living room for the sole purpose of Daddy being able to relax when he gets home. It's not always either/or.

Sarahndipity said...

The reality is that when both spouses are behaving in an adult, mature, Christian manner, they will be willing to sacrifice for the children, for each other, for the good of other souls, too. No need to establish a "who-comes-first" type system.

I agree with this commenter. I find establishing this type of “who comes first” system odd. The reality is that there are different seasons of life. Very young children are very needy; as they get older, their needs lessen. Sometimes your child needs to come first, such as when they’re sick. Sometimes your spouse needs to come first, such as when you’ve planned a romantic getaway ahead of time. I agree that you should not neglect your spouse for your children. But you should also not neglect your children for your spouse. It’s not either/or. Yes, mom and dad are in charge and kids don’t get a say in every decision (though I think kids should be allowed to give more input as they get older).

Also, this post assumes that only the wife should serve her husband. I absolutely agree that a wife should serve her husband, but a husband should also serve his wife. If a wife is truly serving her husband and looking for ways to make his life easier, and a husband is truly serving his wife and looking for ways to make her life easier, and both parents are truly serving their children and meeting their needs for affection and love, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

I admit I don’t understand why a woman should give up her career if she doesn’t have children. I agree 100% that daycare is bad for children and that one parent should stay home if at all possible. I think in most cases it works out better if this parent is the mother, because I think breastfeeding is important, plus I believe men and women are different and that women bond with their children in a way men do not. But why on earth shouldn’t a woman work if she doesn’t have children yet or if her children are grown? Men are perfectly capable of doing housework and can help out if their wife works. Then again I’m Catholic and I don’t take everything in the Bible literally.

I also believe that the primary end of marriage is children. Spouses should be open to having children unless they have a serious reason not to be. Some couples will be unable to have children, and this certainly does not invalidate their marriage. It’s not their fault they’re infertile. Though I do think infertile couples should adopt unless they have a serious reason not to (I know adoption can be expensive and not every couple is able to do so).

Rebekah S. said...

Amen; I couldn't agree more!

A couple years ago, my father said that exact same thing. At first,(I was a very selfish, immature child at the time) I almost took it as saying I wasn't important. But the Lord has radically changed my heart and has shown me the truth of what you're saying

I pray that the Lord will bless me and my future husband with many many children. But even if we never have children, I still plan on being a homemaker. For one, because God commands it. But also beause I desire to make my future home a calming and comforting haven for my husband to come home to after a long day at work, and to feel blessed. A woman cannot fully do this to the best of her ability if she has an outside career.

Rebekah S. said...

Hi, Sarahndipity!

I have a few things I would like to say in response to your comment, if I may. As Christians, we must take everything in the Bible completely literally, and as it is written. For, all Scripture is God breathed, and thus is written exactly as God wanted it to be. In Titus 2:5, Christian women are commanded to be homemakers so that the word of God be not blasphemed. It does not say "Admonish the younger women to be homemakers, only when they want to, or when they have children in the home." The way the verse is clearly written leaves no room for ifs, ands, or buts.

And, I believe that the primary end of marriage is to bring complete and total glory to God.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you my own two cents. :)


Rebekah S. said...

I think that all too often women are so consumed in their children's needs (now, please don't misunderstand me- a woman should and must care for her children's needs!! That's very very important.) that her husband gets placed on the back burner, and without even meaning to, she places him as number 2. All too often a woman is constantly running here and there for her children that by the time the evening rolls around and her husband is home, she no longer has any energy to serve her husband, but is rather too exhuasted to help and serve him. We must make sure that doesn't happen in our own lives!